Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

September 17, 2010
Cops and retired cops square off in California marijuana fight

In the cop vs. cop politicking over Proposition 19, the California initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use, there are a few words that may help determine who may be endorsing which side.

The opposition to Proposition 19 is dominated by a vast list of current law enforcement office holders, including 39 sheriffs and 33 police chiefs, and organizations including the California Police Chiefs Association, the California State Sheriffs' Association, the California Narcotics Officers Association and the California District Attorneys Association.

But the Yes on 19 campaign recently released a list of its own cop endorsements. And most come from people sharing some common modifiers in their titles - namely "former" or "retired."

The names under an endorsement letter for the initiative include retired San Jose Police Chief John McNamara, retired Deputy Los Angeles Police Chief Stephen Downing, former Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriff David Sinclair, former San Francisco District Attorney Terrance Hallinan and retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray.

Current office holders signing the endorsement were Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos and Oakland City Attorney John Russo.

Here is except from their letter on behalf of Prop 19:

"The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana legal are the violent gangs that control its distribution and reap immense profits through the black market. If California voters make the sensible decision to effectively control and tax cannabis this November, it will eliminate illegal marijuana distribution networks, just as ending alcohol prohibition put a stop to violent and corrupting gangsters' control of beer wine and liquor sales."

McNamara also recently penned an op-ed piece in the San Jose Mercury News, arguing that Prop 19 will allow a reallocation of law enforcement resources to make California safer.

"People are not terrified by the thought of pot smokers in their neighborhood, but voters who are justifiably concerned that violent criminals threaten their safety, as well as that of their children and families, will vote for Proposition 19."

But not according to some cops still on the job.

"Nothing about Proposition 19 is positive," said Fontana Police Chief Rodney in a statement released by the No on 19 campaign. "The initiative has too many legal loopholes and will cause too much chaos, and put the public's safety and our communities at risk."

Added Pleasant Hill Police Chief Pete Dunbar: "If Proposition 19 passes, our workplaces and roadways will be in danger, our cities and counties will not benefit economically, and a huge burden will be placed on local law enforcement..."

Just some arguments to ponder from both sides - retired and still on the job.

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